As I sit under a baobab tree, scribbling in my journal, sweat starts to pool in my clavicle and drip from the crease in my arm where my elbow bends. It seems that my second hot season in Senegal has started to rear its dry, ugly head. But for me I feel the heat being turned up in more ways then the Sahelian sun. The hot season will be followed by the rainy season when the most important parts of my most important projects will be executed. Farmers centered research in SRI for my Masters International project, field crop extension to farmers in my village, keeping up the Master Farm, and holding Kaolack Girls Camp. As Peace Corps is only two years long, this is my first and last chance to improve these projects. Not to say they were not successful last year, but I am playing a bigger role in them and hope to apply everything I've learned along the way. After that the search for the prefect job is on! But first, let me back track.
Christmas and New Years and the better part of January were spent in New York with my family and friends in New York. It was exciting and relaxing to have a break to see my loved ones there, and be reminded how my life used to be lived. I fell back into a life style of indoor bathrooms stocked with toilet paper and large diverse meals surprisingly quickly. Some things were jarring at first, like the disco, dance-club ambiance my favorite sushi restaurant took on. Other things fell back into place as though I'd never left, like hanging out at a favorite cafe with old friends. It was always in the back of my mind though, that things like sitting in a cafe wouldn't ever be exactly the same for me, at least for awhile The Great Sarah Ferguson once said, and I'm inclined to agree, that visiting home and returning is an important part of Peace Corps service. The effect that visiting home had on me was a solidification of my roles here in Senegal and my identity in general. I'm not just a volunteer in service to Senegal who bikes through sand to teach people about rice cropping sometimes, I'm also an New Yorker who rides the subway to a rock concert sometimes. Not that I'd forgotten who I was before Peace Corps, but for the first time it was very obvious all the new things I've become since.
Late January found me hurtling along at the bumpy medium pace of Senegalese public transportation from the airport to the city of Kaffrine. It was there I'd meet two farmers from my village to bring them on a week long training-of-trainers in earthworks myself and three other Peace Corps Volunteers had been planning for months. The project went very well and served to distract from the 'back from the U.S. blues' volunteers talk about but which I had yet to experience for myself, and have yet to now a month and a half later.
Some of the time since then has been filled with Peace Corps work like conducting surveys with farmers about local rice cropping knowledge, gardening at the Master Farm, and planning Girls Camp. But much of the time since I've been back has been spent doing what I call 'Other Peace Corps Work'. As Work Zone Coordinator of my region I created and presented a report about volunteer projects and partnerships, a plan for future work and villages for new volunteers to live in, and volunteer feedback to our administrative leadership. I attended and presented at a conference of all West Africa volunteers where work from all over this part of continent was shared. I spoke there about a document I created for other volunteers to follow if they want to hold an earthworks training-of-trainers tour, making our past work replicable. My final other 'Other Peace Corps Work' in the past month was creating training documents and assisting in the training of new agriculture volunteers. I consider all of this 'Other Peace Corps Work' because it doesn't directly effect the Senegalese people like a training-of-trainers in earthworks, but instead builds capacity (i.e.: helps Peace Corps Senegal as a whole help people).
I find I am good at this work and look forward to doing this type of during a long career in agriculture and food systems development, but for now I look forward to getting back to working one-on-one with farmers in the middle of no-where in my village, while I still can. This is the image of the traditional Peace Corps work, which along with the 'Other Peace Corps Work' does still exist in some sense. Although the heat on the thermometer is up (along with career search pressure), its time to dial up the 'original' Peace Corps work and prepare perfect for my rainy season projects.